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It's all very abstract compared with nuts and bolts.

I've always loved nuts and bolts." Hansard is one of Ireland's most successful musicians, an Oscar-winning songwriter, and far more the folk troubadour of tradition than he is modern-day celebrity. We've done all right." Raised in the Ballymun area of Dublin as the second of four children, Hansard quit school at 13, intent on becoming a busker. They were young – they had me when they were 19 – and still figuring things out.

It was 2007, and Hansard's friend and former Frames bassist John Carney had begun working on Once, a tale of two buskers in Dublin falling in love through music.

Cillian Murphy had signed on to appear alongside a 19-year-old newcomer, Czech musician Marketa Irglova; Hansard would write the songs. "Cillian doesn't like me saying this, but he had reservations about some of my songs. But, then, the character was pretty dark." With Murphy gone, the funding disappeared, and the project seemed doomed.

The film was shot in three weeks on a shoestring budget of £100,000 and, if the finished product was rough around the edges, it was also quite lovely, seducing all who saw it.

The leads' on-screen love affair followed off-screen, and the following year the doomed sweethearts (they would split up shortly after) won Best Song at the Oscars for the track "Falling Slowly".

"I became a jobbing musician, which was all I ever wanted." A full 16 years on, he was asked to be in a film again.

"I've been filthy for days, and I'm happy as a pig in shit.

There's a logic and satisfaction to fixing things you could never get from songwriting." Hardly a sentiment one might anticipate from a singer-songwriter whose new solo album, Didn't He Ramble, might just be his most personal, and loveliest, yet; but Hansard is nothing if not a plain speaker. "Songs are these weird, ethereal things – like birds that land in the garden you try to coax into the room.

Hansard's acceptance speech, made immortal on You Tube, is the very definition of incredulous disbelief.

"You'd imagine I'd have been full of light after winning," he says, "but in fact I went quite dark, drinking far too much.

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